Stationery and plant pots

Smug in Islington is one of those shops that has many of the things I like to buy: pretty notebooks, stationery and plant pots. An odd mix, you might think but it doesn’t feel like that as it’s also a shop that’s beautifully curated. And of course the bright yellow set of steps just inside the shop also help. I used to pop up to Islington frequently, but have got out of the habit. It’s one of those places that when I do go, I think it’s a place I should go to more often, and them promptly forget about again, until the next time.

On my recent trip up to the Business Design Centre, I was determined not to miss the opportunity to have a good look round. And so I did.

Sigh, pretty books and notebooks

Plant-based stationery, completely perfect for me! It’s one of those shops that would be easy to say I’ll have one of each please, and be entirely happy with the treasures you end up taking home.

Notebooks and notelets

Boxes of pencils, erasers and even more notebooks. The cycling one was a particular favourite. But it was the rubbers that provoked memories of school days and how much thought and time went into replenishing my supplies for the new school term, and the more unusual the rubber, the better. I’m sure though there were at least a couple of the pink and blue varieties pictured below at times.

pencils, rubbers and more notebooks.jpg

Now onto the plant pots. The pastel shades and quite peculiar “love heart” plants, and how they’re displayed just make them work. I normally opt for brights over pastels, but the pinks. greens and neutrals just work. The fact that most of them hold succulents is neither here nor there…

succulents in a pink pot in smug islington
Green pots and plants

So with a dose of Smug under my belt, all was well with my world and happy and contented - I avoided using the word smug there - my day could continue. And maybe this time, my next visit might happen a little more quickly.

Containers with a difference at RHS Harlow Carr

Looking back at my photos from our Yorkshire trip earlier in the summer I realised I’d not shared any photos from my visit to RHS Harlow Carr, which was one of the main reasons for heading North. I still have ambitions to visit all four of the RHS gardens this year, and with Wisley and Hyde Hall already visited this northern gem was one that needed some planning, as it’s not just around the corner from South London. 

The final garden, if I manage it, is RHS Rosemoor in Devon, and you’ll not be sure to hear I have a plan for that too. I’ve already had one attempt visiting there scuppered by the snow, so I’m hoping everything aligns for a visit in November.  

But more of that another day. I do have plenty of photos to share from Harlow Carr and I’m starting with some unusual containers which lined the steps down into the garden, which I’m sure many people missed in their eagerness to explore the gardens proper, but I do like an out of the ordinary container or two and it was MOH that was shuffling me along to see what else we could find. 

And when it comes to succulents in an old boot, that’s a pretty tough job. 

succulents are at home in most containers, even a boot

I’d plans to plant up some old wellies, but MOH wasn’t so keen, but as you know that’s unlikely to stop me, and I’m sure when they’re in full grow he’ll be more appreciative. 

A plain cup and saucer was the perfect setting for this vibrant pink flower, which also had the look of a succulent about it. I’m less sure about this, mainly because I’m sure I’d definitely over water and end up drowning it, which wouldn’t be good. 

a cup and saucer with a difference at RHS Harlow Carr

Strawberries in a wire basket on the other hand could be just my thing. I’ve brought many strawberry plants back from the allotment which are currently growing in several trugs, and I really need to sort out how to grow them properly next year. 

strawberries in a basket

Olive oil cans have long been another ambition of mine, we do use olive oil but not this much and I’ve yet to source a supply of empty tins that works - I’m open to ideas on that one, if you have any! 

Olive oil tins make great containers

I think they’d make a great edging to a plain path or on the patio grouped togetuand would be ideal for herbs. Galvanised, or even lead buckets are also on my wish list, and seeing the succulents looking so good against the grey hasn’t deterred me.  

succulents in a rustic bucket

In fact you’ve probably already noticed that succulents and small leafed plants feature heavily in these containers, and I’m sure that’s no accident as they’re more likely to withstand drought and trying conditions. 

ceramic pots and a mini garden of plants at RHS Harlow Carr

Even the containers which had a ‘garden’ planted in them generally followed this rule of thumb, and these people at RHS Harlow Carr know their stuff.  

An enamel bowl gets similar treatment

I also have enamel bowl envy after seeing the photo above, though I’m not sure if I could use one as a container - I guess that would depend on its condition.  

So here’s a brief intro to my visit to the RHS’ most northerly garden, and there’s plenty more to come. But what do you think, are any of these containers for you? 

Softening our gabion seating area with plants

Right from the off, back in May when our plans were hastily redrawn after just happening to buy a pizza oven, I planned to have a second row of gabion baskets and plant them up with plants from our garden. MOH was less sure about this part of the plan, but as he wanted a pizza oven he went along with it.  I thought that adding at least a tonne of hardcore at the back of our garden would need some softening and I think the two photos below show that I was right.





The difference is amazing isn't it? I'm pleased I persevered with this as not only did it help us lose some of the soil we've been collecting but it helps the new structure stand out less, which may seem an odd thing to say but it gives it a more natural feel. 

So how did I turn them into planters?

The answer is membrane. I could have used plastic but that's non-permeable and so they would eventually become like mini bog gardens, that's fine if that's the look you're going for, and if you're planting plants that like those conditions, but I wanted to use the plants that I'd displaced - the ferns, as well as some other plants from around our garden. Crocosmias seem to grow two a penny and I had a pot of those from where I laid some of the old patio paving slabs under the cherry tree. I'd also been collecting sedums and so those were destined for their too.  The final plant I wanted to include was a foxglove that was growing in a pot. Not the usual place for foxgloves but I wasn't sure if it was a weed or a plant (it was a plant) so had moved it there for observation. 

But first things first, membrane.

add membrane to gabion baskets to use them as planters

I cut two ultra-long lengths and used them to line the baskets in a cross form. I found that securing them with string worked well and quickly found a way to do this so the string was out of sight. On seeing them MOH said they looked like waste bins... Hmmmm.  With soil added, less so I think?

In went the plants, and more soil to top up the baskets. And as with any planting they got a good long water.

Planted with ferns, crocosmia, sedums and digitalis sourced from the garden

And they seemed to thrive. Even the foxglove that was moved while it was flowering seemed happy - phew. 

The foxglove was in flower when I moved it - it'd been growing in a pot - but it coped well with the move to our gabion planters

I'm a fan of dense planting and especially in this kind of space it's worked well. Nearly two months later and the plants have settled in really well, filling out and softening the space as I'd hoped. 

the plants have settled in well and are softening the area, just as I hoped
sedums growing in our gabion planters

We've still a little more to do, as I want to add a further gabion basket planter on the end so that each of the three seats have plants behind them, but that's just finding the time to level the soil, line the basket and fill it with soil. I've a couple more ferns and crocosmias waiting to go into that space, so the plants are sorted.

I also want to line the three triangular spaces between the seats with membrane in the same way and plant those up with camomile, penny royal (a ground covering mint variety) and thyme, so that when you sit there and brush against the herbs you get a waft of scent too.  This, alongside sorting out the front of the baskets - I think it needs some kind of step - and then I'll happily declare this part of the garden finished.

What do you think?

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